Mediatisation, Marginalisation and Disruption in Australian Indigenous Affairs

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Mediatisation, Marginalisation and Disruption in Australian Indigenous Affairs

  • Kerry McCallum News and Media Research Centre, Faculty of Arts and Design, University of Canberra, Australia
  • Lisa Waller Faculty of Arts and Education, Deakin University, Australia
  • Tanja Dreher School of Arts, English and Media, Wollongong University, Australia

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Abstract:  This article considers how changing media practices of minority groups and political and media elites impact on democratic participation in national debates. Taking as its case study the state-sponsored campaign to formally recognise Indigenous people in the Australian constitution, the article examines the interrelationships between political media and Indigenous participatory media—both of which we argue are undergoing seismic transformation. Discussion of constitutional reform has tended to focus on debates occurring in forums of influence such as party politics and news media that privilege the voices of only a few high-profile Indigenous media ‘stars’. Debate has progressed on the assumption that constitutional change needs to be settled by political elites and then explained and ‘sold’ to Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Our research on the mediatisation of policymaking has found that in an increasingly media-saturated environment, political leaders and their policy bureaucrats attend to a narrow range of highly publicised voices. But the rapidly changing media environment has disrupted the media-driven Recognise campaign. Vigorous public discussion is increasingly taking place outside the mainstream institutions of media and politics, while social media campaigns emerge in rapid response to government decisions. Drawing on a long tradition in citizens’ media scholarship we argue that the vibrant, diverse and growing Indigenous media sphere in Australia has increased the accessibility of Indigenous voices challenging the scope and substance of the recognition debate. The article concludes on a cautionary note by considering some tensions in the promise of the changing media for Indigenous participation in the national policy conversation.

Keywords:  mediatisation; Indigenous constitutional recognition; Indigenous media; participation; political communication



© Kerry McCallum, Lisa Waller, Tanja Dreher. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.